SUBJECTS: Labor to Take Action on Gender Pay Gap Reporting; Schools funding; Ken Wyatt.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well thank you very much for coming out this afternoon. I'm very pleased to be here in the Jessie Street Gardens. Jessie Street, of course, was a trailblazing Australian feminist, the only woman on the delegation to the United Nations. And Jessie Street, of course, was the one who was responsible for making sure that sex was included as a grounds for discrimination in the universal declaration of human rights. If it wasn't for Jessie Street, Australian women would still be struggling for some basic equalities. And, today, I think she would be very proud that we're taking the next step to reduce the gender pay gap in Australia. 

What Labor's announcing today is that companies with more than 1,000 employees will have to report on the difference between men and women's wages in their companies. This information's already collected by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. The difference is the information will now be made public. We believe that, by asking large companies to report on the difference between men and women's wages in their company, they'll focus even more on reducing that gender pay gap in their business. We know that the gender pay gap is stubborn in that it's still around at 15 per cent. And, of course, it’s even higher for women in professional or managerial positions, and in some industries. I think it’s just not fair that a full time working woman earns about $27,000 per year less than a full time working man. So, this next step, of public reporting, we hope will focus the minds of larger organisations to further reduce the gender pay gap. 

We are also, of course, banning pay secrecy clauses. It’s not fair that, if I want to disclose my wage to another employee, or to my union or to someone else, I am not allowed to. We know that the industries that most commonly use pay secrecy clauses also have some of the largest gender pay gaps. So, I’m very pleased to be joined here by some other very special guests, and I’ll let them introduce themselves, now, and say a few words.
PHILIPPA HALL, NSW WOMEN'S ELECTORAL LOBBY: Hello, my name is Philippa Hall. I am the convenor of the NSW Women’s Electoral Lobby, and I’m here to express our great delight at this announcement. The Women’s Electoral Lobby, throughout its 45 years, has continued with the campaigns that Jessie Street waged for equal pay. What we are particularly delighted about with these announcements is that they give us some hope for the future. We’ve had years now of the pretence that the equal pay problem would go away somehow. That, without anything being done, it would somehow magically disappear. We can see that, for 30 years, it's been just shimmering around between 15 and 17 per cent. And, we can see it’s gone down a little bit lately, and – surprise, surprise – Australia’s in a record period of wage stagnation where male-dominated industries have seen their wages fall. So, these equal pay requirements will get organisations to actually look into their own practices in the organisation. That’s things like starting rates for men and women, performance payments, and bonuses. It doesn’t get to the whole problem, which also has elements at the occupational level and the industry level, but this is a big deal. And we will be delighted to see an ongoing monitoring of the quality of the work that companies do in looking into what their issues are, and actually whether they take some steps to change some of them, which will very often involve needing to increase the pay that they are providing for women. But, this is a great initiative, and we are delighted to be hearing about it right in the Jessie Street Garden.
REBECCA FRASER, ENERGY AUSTRALIA: Thanks Philippa. My name is Rebecca Fraser, and I’m here from Energy Australia. And, earlier this year, Energy Australia was pleased to announce that we have closed the pay gap within our organisation. Over the last couple of years, we had struggled in looking at our annual salary review to understand why this pay gap existed and why it continued to exist in our organisation. So, we undertook an exercise earlier this year, and, our Managing Director, Catherine Tanna, announced that we would no longer support this gap for women in our organisation. So we went through an extensive exercise, level by level, to ensure that all of our people were paid appropriately for the jobs that they performed. We are pleased that, in the future, transparency will help us to better understand what it is that causes these ongoing pay gaps within our community. And, we hope to see that these practices can be improved so that each organisation can proudly say that their men and women are paid equally. 
JULIA ANGRISANO, FINANCE SECTOR UNION: My name is Julia Angrisano. I’m the National Secretary at the Finance Sector Union. The trade union movement today acknowedges this announcement from the ALP about the closing of the gender pay gap is a very important step forward in addressing this issue. We’ve heard today that the gender pay gap sits at around 15 per cent, but, across the finance sector, it sits at a shockingly high 27 per cent. And, across our sector, we say that discretionary, conflicted, opaque, secretive payrolls are really the leading cause and contributing factor of this pay gap. And, so today’s announcement is really about exposing the gender pay gaps within organisations. Whether that be through gender audits, which will become more publicly available for not just companies to think about the appropriate solutions to those gaps, but to women. And we know that companies wa t to attract good talent. I think having appropriate levels of gender pay across organisations, reducing the reputational risk that comes with having a high gender pay gap. These two reasons alone go some way in addressing these problems. In our industry, it’s actually illegal for workers to share information about their pay, their contracts prevent that. And often our members tell us their experience when they ask their male colleagues what they’re getting paid, because they know that they’re actually getting paid more than them. Their male colleagues share that, but ask them not to disclose it. Because, what happens next is that information, if it was to be used in pay negotiation: Not only would the female worker be asked not to disclose that further, “Don’t talk about your pay – that’s in breach of your contract.” But, indeed, the male colleague who shared that information would also be in trouble. It’s time to actually have greater transparency. Greater transparency across pay will improve more effective scrutiny - and allow for more effective scrutiny so that we can bring about better solutions for pay parity, not just for the finance sector, but all sectors.
PLIBERSEK: Do you have any questions of Philippa, Rebecca or Julia first of all? Because then I’ll do questions and issues of the day. All right. Thank you.
JOURNALIST: On schools funding, does Labor support the new method for calculating parents’ capacity to pay school fees?
PLIBERSEK: We support, in principle, the idea that we need a more fine-tuned method of determining a parent’s capacity to pay when it comes to school fees. We started the process of the socio-economic status review when we were last in government. But we haven’t seen the school-by-school effects of these changes. So, we would still like to see more detail before a final signoff. The real issue with schools' funding is how it is possibly fair that this Government is restoring billions of dollars cut from Catholic and independent schools but refusing to restore the billions of dollars cut from public schools. We know it's public schools that have been hit hardest by these cuts. In fact, 85 per cent of the cuts in the first two years alone are from public schools. How can Prime Minister Scott Morrison think that it’s okay to fund Catholic and independent schools, to restore their funding cuts, but not to fund public schools, not to restore the billions cut from public schools? What kind of a Prime Minister says to parents “Your kids are worth more than your kids”?
JOURNALIST: So, on this issue, you’re in agreement with the NSW Government, as they have made similar objections?
PLIBERSEK: I think it’s very important that the NSW Education Minister has called out the Federal Government and said, "It’s not fair to restore funding to Catholic and independent schools but not to public schools". The NSW Government knows that, in the first two years of funding cuts alone, they have lost hundreds of millions of dollars from NSW public schools, and billions of dollars over the decade. It is not fair to punish parents who send their children to a public school. It's not fair to punish the children who are attending public schools by cutting billions from their schools while restoring funding to Catholic and independent schools. We say that every dollar of the $17 billion this Government’s cut from schools should be restored.
JOURNALIST: What’s the main thing driving pay and equity?
PLIBERSEK: Well, there’s more than one factor in pay and equity, and, today, we are addressing one of those factors. A lot of companies simply don’t know that they have a gender pay gap. They assume that they don’t. And, when they do a gender pay audit, they are surprised that they have got a gender pay gap. So, we’re first of all encouraging companies to do the gender pay audit that is available from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. That’s the first step. Making that gender pay gap public for large companies, that’s an important second step. Because, having that public scrutiny encourages companies to do more to reduce the gender pay gap. As you’ve heard from Energy Australia today, the excellent work they’ve done to reduce their gender pay gap to zero. The third thing, of course, is pay secrecy. We know that shining a light – transparency – is the best medicine. So, banning those pay secrecy clauses is important. But, as Philippa Hall said today, we also need to do more to reduce segregation in occupations. We should have more young women studying trades like carpentry, plumbing, engineering; going into higher paid occupations. And we should have more young men going into those caring occupations that are traditionally female dominated. I think that would definitely reduce the gender pay gap in coming years as well.
JOURNALIST: So, if gender pay audits are collected using taxpayers’ money, why haven’t they been made public?
PLIBERSEK: Companies are investing themselves in doing a gender pay audit in their company. So, they are spending their own money doing that. They are doing it with a tool provided by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. These are changes that we began when we were last in government to make sure that reporting was less onerous for companies, but were telling about the gender pay gap. We are now saying that companies have had a few years to make necessary changes within their organisations. It’s time now to take the next step and make that information public. What we’ve seen around the world is that countries that have greater transparency in this area actually generally have lower gender pay gaps. And, what it’s taken in those countries is a very deliberate action from government and from business to reduce the gender pay gap. So, we need to introduce that transparency, and we need to be very deliberate in saying, “It’s our intention to reduce the gender pay gap. This is how we’re going to do it, and this is how we are going to record the progress as we do it”.
JOURNALIST: If the changes were implemented, what would happen to a company who doesn’t do an audit and doesn’t provide that data to the agency?
PLIBERSEK: Well, companies that have more than 1,000 employees that don’t comply with the necessary reporting are actually not able to bid on government contracts. So, most companies are compliant. We have very, very low rates of non-compliance because companies are keen to bid on government work. And we know that this will affect something over 700 companies. But, those 700-odd companies actually cover almost three million Australian workers. So, this is a big step forward.
JOURNALIST: Why do you think it will work?
PLIBERSEK: I think it will work because companies will be embarrassed about their gender pay gaps and they will take steps to reduce their gender pay gaps. Now, they’ve had time to analyse their own data. For a few years now, they’ve been looking at the fact that they have a gender pay gap. Having to disclose, I think, is the next level of pressure on companies to really take this issue seriously. To work out what they need to change to make sure that they actually reduce their pay gap over time. Any other questions?
JOURNALIST: Yes, just one more. There are fresh claims that News Corp is reporting today about bullying in Ken Wyatt’s office between staff. What’s your response to that?
PLIBERSEK: I’ve seen those reports, but I don’t propose to comment. I don’t know any of the details, I don’t know any of the people involved, I just don’t think it'd be fair to give a generalised comment. Of course, the only – the thing I would say, separate from Minister Wyatt’s office, is, every workplace should be a safe workplace. Employers have to take the issue of workplace bullying seriously. Thanks.